African economies – like old soldiers – do not die, do not collapse, but just fade away, according to Tony Hawkins, of the University of Zimbabwe.
“Eight years into economic decline that has cut GDP by 40 percent and halved income per head, Zimbabwe is still standing. The oft-predicted collapse, implosion, meltdown has yet to happen, highlighting the yawning chasm that separates economic decline and political change in Africa,” Hawkins told a regional conference at South Africa’s University of Pretoria last month.
Regional governments, apart from South Africa, are relatively unaffected by Zimbabwe’s economic crisis: Angola, buoyed by oil prices averaging over US$65 a barrel has become one of the world’s fastest growing economies; Mozambique has been boosted by economic reforms together with South African and international investment; Zambia, thanks to demand for copper from India and China, has emerged from a 25-year recession; with sound economic management, Botswana’s beef and diamond-driven economy is holding steady; and South Africa is growing faster than it has for 25 years.
South Africa and Botswana are absorbing most of Zimbabwe’s economic migrants, and benefiting from a reserve of this often highly experienced and qualified work force.
Zimbabwe has slipped down the league tables of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Its share of SADC’s GDP has slumped from 3.6 pecent in 1996 to 1.4 percent today. Until 2002 it was the second largest economy in SADC after South Africa, but now it is ranked 10th.
Only three SADC economies are smaller – Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland.
Between 1995-2000, the SADC region (excluding SA) grew less than 4 percent a year. Since 2000 it has grown over 11 percent a year despite Zimbabwe’s fall. These figures only underline Zimbabwe’s marginalisation.
As problems with the land resettlement programme disrupted production, much of the tobacco and horticulture business shifted to Zambia and Mozambique and some horticulture to South Africa.
Zimbabwe’s manufacturers have lost most of their market share to South Africa and some to Botswana’s small industrial sector.
Zimbabwe’s tourism which boasts the wondrous Victoria Falls has lost out mostly to Zambia.